Friday, July 29, 2011

Pet Rhino

Some kids ask for puppy dogs and kitty cats, today Sam asked me if we could get a pet Rhinoceros. I explained that they are just too big, but he corrected me, taking my chin in his palm and directing my attention to a small photo in his animal book, "They are just bitsy mom, look!" I reminded him of the rhino we saw at the zoo and he assured me it would be fine, "we could keep him in the backyard." After discussing that that being charged by a rhino might not make playing soccer in the backyard a whole lot of fun, he changed his mind and said maybe he would like a kitty someday instead. He did go on to ask how it WOULD be possible to someday have a rhinoceros and I racked my brain wanting to give him every opportunity to fulfill his dreams. I said "You could be a vet and work at the zoo and you could work with rhinoceros' and they would be like your pet." He giggled excitedly and said "Yes, I'm going to do that."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sentir Falta de

I have never known a second language as well as I now know Portuguese. I feel as though I understand it, because there are now definitely times when words in Portuguese more accurately convey what I really want to say better than words in English. Less frequently, I find myself using phrases or patterns of speech that is clearly a translation of something I just thought of in Portuguese into awkward English. This usually happens after a day of several long meetings all conducted in Portuguese. Sometimes, it’s hard to turn off.

A good example of the former, where a turn of phrase in Portuguese, for me, is much closer to the essence of what I want to say than the same turn of phrase in English is when you say you miss someone.

Weekends are too short. Though they are often filled with complete and utter chaos, balancing the needs and wants of two incredibly energetic toddlers, not to mention the needs and wants of an incredibly adorable spouse, Monday morning comes way too quickly, maybe because neither Elise nor I have stopped moving since the preceding Friday afternoon. When you are surrounded by so much kinetic motion, the absence of it hits you like a hammer. All of a sudden you have two boys laughing, running, playing, screaming, crying, splashing all around you and the next moment, there is nothing, complete silence, parrots squawking, maybe, but definitely not the cacophony preceding it. This isn’t missing someone. You miss the bus. You miss a lay-up. You miss the trash can. This is “sentir falta de alguma coisa.”

To feel the lack or absence of something.

Because it is something you feel emotionally and physically. It manifests itself as a hollowness in your person, a space previously filled by something, a sweaty three-year old rubbing his matted curls and chewed-on blankie in your face, a one-year old rubbing his forehead back and forth on yours or crying and pointing to things that aren’t there, a pacie, a blankie, a bottle of milk. This is how I feel on Monday morning. Do I miss them? Yes. But “eu sinto falta de eles” more.

Welcome to Brasilia!

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming a new family to Brasilia as their sponsors. It hasn't been long since it was us coming down that jetway, and I recall too easily the starry-eyed wonder stepping off the plane into a wet and soggy tropical landscape, my eyes and brain struggling to take it all in at once.

As sponsors, one of our duties was to ensure that the new family’s house was in order. Last Saturday, we piled everyone into the car and headed over to their house to make sure the beds were made and the house was clean and inviting. We pulled up to the drive and opened the door. We checked the alarm and entered the kitchen, checking lights and keys. There were 4 bottles of water and the welcome kit, temporary plates, dishes and kitchen utensils at the ready. We peaked into the laundry area, looking for the gas tanks to make sure they, too, were full.

When I walked back into the kitchen, Sam was walking toward me, eyes wide. I had seen that look before, but it didn’t register before Sam opened his mouth and threw up all over the kitchen floor. We hadn’t been in the house two minutes, but I quickly took to my hands and knees dabbing it up with a kitchen towel (that we since washed and replaced).

Fortunately, when we returned a few days later to drop off groceries, the stench had dissipated. Nothing like walking into your brand new house to the smell of.....well, you get the idea.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peter Peep Toe(s)

I know, I know, he's much too young to be wearing heels, but we just don't play by the rules around here:

Brazil's America's Next Top Baby

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Windiest Day

Lessons Learned from a Recent Weekend

1. It doesn’t matter if it takes me 5 minutes or an hour and 5 minutes to make dinner. It will always be 5 minutes too long for Peter.

2. Never let your kids watch a movie (Rio) with samba music in it right before bedtime.

3. Building a bicycle with tiny screws, bolts, nuts, washers and allen wrenches is an exercise in extreme patience. Two steps forward one step back is actually one giant leap of progress (and I'm actually thankful for the hour of silence as both boys are engaged in intense tinkering, even if it means I am less further along than I was when we started).

4. By the looks Sam and I received on Sunday, Brazilians are not used to roller skating through grocery stores.

4b. The marble ramps into and out of Brazilian grocery stores are not conducive to roller skating.

5. Wal-mart sells glazed doughnuts (the only place we know of in Brasilia that does). Repeat: Wal-mart sells glazed doughnuts!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sam's (Current) Favorite Song:

Ragged Wood By: Fleet Foxes


Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long
The spring is upon us, follow my only song
Settle down with me by the fire of my yearning
You should come back home, back on your own now

The world is alive now, in and outside our home
You run through the forest, settle before the sun
Darling, I can barely remember you beside me
You should come back home, back on your own now

And even in the light, when the woman of the woods came by

To give to you the word of the old man
In the morning tide when the sparrow and the seagull fly
And Johnathan and Evelyn get tired

Lie to me if you will at the top of Beringer Hill
Tell me anything you want, any old lie will do
Call me back to you

Back to you

Sam begs for this song from the chair of his backseat vista each and every time we get in the car, "I want to hear the whoa-oh-oh song!" His favorite line to sing (besides "whoa-oh-oh") is "Come back home!" which he croons in his signature deep voice that melts both our hearts and pastes a grin across my face so large it sometimes hurts my cheeks. He turns, in true kid form, certain words he doesn't understand, into other words, such as "my yearning" to "meowing" which, let's face it, might work just as well. He has always had, but has recently discovered such a love for music, but no ordinary tunes, much like his parents, and has taken to singing to us and memorizing words unlike I ever imagined a 3 1/2 year old could. Angels, I tell you, angels.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Bastille Day

I think Elise likes to think of herself as part French. So, when I received an invitation to attend the Bastille Day celebration at the French Embassy, I couldn’t wait to share it with her.

I knew as soon as we walked up to the front of the Embassy, I really wished I spoke French. This didn’t prove to be an obstacle later on, but as I shook hands with the French Ambassador to Brazil, I found myself wanting to be able to at least say, “Thank you for having me” in French. (I find my cultural sensitivity is at a new high, because I found myself trying to write an email in Spanish to a colleague from Mexico. I don’t know how to write in Spanish. At least, not anymore and, at least, at nothing more than a high school level.)

After finding a bar, Elise and I made a quick toast and a promise, to one day celebrate Bastille Day in France. We listened attentively as the French Ambassador addressed the very large crowd. It was the first time I had ever heard Portuguese spoken with a French accent. I imagine it sounds much better than Portuguese spoken with an American accent.

A band struck up the French and Brazilian national anthems, followed by a mad scramble for food. Elise and I were lucky enough to be near the churrasco and helped ourselves to two spits of beef coated in garlic. They were to die for. Our only failing was our selflessness, because it was the last good thing we would eat all night. We stood in line for nearly an hour for cheese, baguettes and quiche, but nothing would live up to the pure deliciousness and pure simplicity of grilled meat on a stick. So, yes, in Brazil, the best food was Brazilian and not French. I think the French might have had a problem with that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some Things are Harder to Explain than Others

Sam is at the age where he asks a million questions a day. Some are easier to answer than others. Why do flowers grow up instead of down? How are fossils made? We haven’t started a list of some of his most thought-provoking questions, but we should.

Every day when Elise, Sam and Pete come to my office, they have to pass through the main gate. Unfortunately, it’s not like visiting most dad’s at their office. Elise turns the car off, takes the key out of the ignition and opens the hood. She shows the guard her identification while another guard pops the hood and looks at the engine. A third guard looks at the bottom of the car and under the wheel wells with a mirror, then opens the trunk. He asks if all the bags and sacks there are her’s. Another guard uses a special wipe on the door locks to detect explosives. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here. Any Brazilian waiting outside for a visa to go Disney World or the Super-Target at the Dolphin Mall could tell you the same thing.

When Sam asked, we told him they were checking our engine and car for us, kind of like routine maintenance. But he’s getting too old and too smart for this to ring true much longer. I don’t think he’s asked again recently, but I can sense it coming. He is disappointed when he doesn’t get the opportunity to say “Boa Tarde” to the guards as they check them in.

I haven’t decided yet what to tell him. He is too young to know there are people in our world who may want to hurt his dad just because of where he works or may want to hurt him just because of where he is born. In fact, I plan to keep the evils of the world from his for as long as possible. I have trouble telling him that the ‘meat’ that meat-eating (carnivorous) dinosaurs (those Sam likes to call the ‘roaring dinosaurs’) is, in fact, other dinosaurs. I don’t even like to acknowledge that they eat each other. Though I acknowledge he will probably be exposed to much more—and at any earlier age—than many of his peers. This will be both wonderful and scary, for him and for us.

Living abroad is a double-edged sword. While it may be our hope to avoid some of the pitfalls of what may be common now in small-town, everyday Americana, drug abuse, teen drinking, abusive peer pressure, living abroad will have its own unique challenges. Not the least of which will, no doubt, make him a better boy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mine Old House

Occasionally, Sam wants to talk about his old house. Embarking on a lifestyle which will require frequent moves, Elise and I are especially conscientious of how this will affect our boys. Sam’s a smart kid. He knows when he says he wants to go back to his old house or just wants to talk about his old house, it immediately gets our attention. I’m convinced that he doesn’t so much want to go back to or talk about his old house as much as he just wants Elise or my undivided attention. He knows this is one way to get it.

Ironically, he doesn’t want to go back to his house in Florida. I think that’s the one that immediately springs to our mind. He remembers the small apartment we lived in for 8 months in Arlington, Virginia, a two-bedroom apartment on the 18-floor of a high-rise with a claustrophobic underground garage where police sirens howled at all hours of the night. He remembers the construction site we looked over and the revolving door at my old office there. It’s hard for us to believe that he would prefer that apartment to our house in Brazil.

When he tells me he wants to talk about his old house, I try to redirect the conversation to all the good things about our new house, our Brazil house. We talk about all the toys we have and the fun things to do. I tell him that Paulo (the gardener) and Zilda (our empregada) are at our new house, and we talk about going to the Parque da Cidade and playing at the playground at my new office. I’m hoping this still works if we ever find ourselves somewhere that’s not as wonderful as Brazil. I hope as long as he has our undivided attention, I can convince that his new house—wherever that may be—is better than his old house—all of them—because it is the house that we’re all in.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fridays With Petey

I always welcome Friday mornings, besides for the obvious reasons, it is the one morning that Peter and I get to have a just a few hours to ourselves. Most school mornings, Zilda is here and she and Peter work in the garden or play at the house while I head out to Portuguese class and to run. On Friday, Sam has school and Pete and I are on our own. We load up the jogging stroller, drop big brother at school and head out for a morning run. Armed with snacks, sippy cup and a water bottle, we enjoy the sights of Brasilia at one of our favorite running loops then Pete jumps out and we wander about in the warm Brazilian sunshine, watching birds, looking for fish in the lake, throwing tiny handfuls of pebbles into the water and hunting for monkeys. We stop for a treat on the way home, typically at our favorite pão de queijo joint and wander our jardim until the time comes for us to pick Sam up from school. Precious quiet time with my tiniest boy in the midst of a busy and quickly spinning world.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Third of July

Before it was the Fourth of July, it was the Third of July, a quiet Sunday evening with not a whole lot to do. I have tried to get in the habit of making dinner Sunday evenings. Elise has been having a few family sessions on Sunday afternoons, so I like to try and make a special dinner for her when she comes home. Though she didn’t have a photo shoot, she had requested ‘special quesadillas’ for dinner.

I haven’t made special quesadillas since we’ve been in Brazil, and, in the past, when Elise has requested special quesadillas, I’ve groaned in protest, because the special quesadilla is probably one of the most labor-intensive quesadillas ever made. But this time, I happily acquiesced.

Usually when I make special quesadilla I only have enough time and patience to make one, for Elise, and end up just throwing the remainder of the quesadilla fixins in a bowl for myself, because a lot of work has gone into the special quesadilla before any actual quesadilla-grilling has taken place.

The special quesadilla consists of sautéed onions and mushrooms, red bell pepper strips, mango, cilantro, goat cheese and grilled chicken. Okay, so when I write it out, it doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it’s a lot of work.

I made the boys’ dinner beforehand, rice, not-so-special cheese quesadilla and broccoli. They ate, and Elise kept me company in the kitchen as I slaaaaaaved over the special quesadilla prep.

In a vain attempt to postpone eating his mango, Sam piped up, to no one in particular. Pointing at Elise and then I, “You and you are best friends.”

“When Mommy feels sad, Daddy helps her feel better.”

Sam still wouldn’t eat his mango, so Elise reached for her iPhone where she had recorded—only a few weeks prior—Sam saying, “I like mango.”

No go. He still wouldn’t eat his mango even though he had just heard himself say he liked it.

To me, “How long you going to be here?”

“A long time, Punny. I’m not going anywhere for a long time.” Then added, “You’re going to want to get rid of me long before I’m going to want to get rid of you.”

Serious, “I don’t want to get rid of you, Daddy.”

I smiled at Elise and said, “You need to get that on tape.”

He never did eat his mango, but he eats broccoli (what 3 year-old eats broccoli?!?), so I didn’t push it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July

Happy 235th USA, all the way from Brazil. We had a big weekend, filled with events. I photographed my first diplomatic function, the official Independence Day party at the Ambassador's Residence on Thursday night, while Paul worked (it) and we passed each other in darkened corners of the party to say 'hey' and pretend we were on a date, a really terrible date, with 400 people we didn't know hanging around. We make the best of every situation, though and it felt good to be back working a larger event.

On Friday evening we stayed up late to put the finishing touches on Sam's bike and Peter's cart.

Saturday night we headed to a party hosted by the embassy. The boys had a blast jumping in the bounce houses and of course, making their debut appearance in the Fourth of July parade. See here for all the reasons (minus a fabulous photo of my brothers, my cousin and I forced to wear matching pure-white sweat suits and be wrapped up in crepe paper to walk miles side-by-side like a giant (miserable) American flag) that we must torture our children for the rest of their parade age days. An old family tradition, you might say. One of our best.

Now that the boys are old enough to ride, toddle or be pulled in any Fourth of July parade, Paul and I will pull out all the stops to make sure they have the most creative and eye catching costumes and decorations in the parade.

Now we are pleased to present to you, the Hanna boys Inaugural Fourth of July Parade:

Barnsie the Barnes & Noble bear, a gift from Uncle Dan, stripped of his cozy B&N hoodie and book-bag and dressed as Lady Lib-bear-ty herself. Complete with sparkly pipe-cleaner fireworks happening about her.

Costume Design: Mom
Props Design: Dad
Float Operator: Pete
Festive Decoration Procurement & Delivery: Nanny

"The Schwinn" decked out in all things red, white and blue.

After one lap of the turn around of the circular drive, Sam became bored of the cycling and Pete bored of the pushing after only a mere three feet. They switched vehicles and continued the parade. Sam running like an out of control Macy's Day parade float and Pete at an astonishingly slow "Deflated Macy's Day Parade float."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Festa Junina

Sam's preschool class put on a celebration complete with show this evening for the Brazilian festival known as Festa Junina. A celebration of the nativity of St. John the Baptist. It is an annual winter celebration, held outside or under thatched roofs, the dress, food and music and games are all representative of rural Brazilian culture. And the dancing, oh the dancing! Each class took to the stage to Brazilian country music and square danced, jumped around and waved their tiny hands all dressed in cowboy-like attire, with painted on mustaches, goatees, freckles, straw hats and pigtails. Others (read: Sam) stood still (adorably still I might add) searching the crowd for his us, then smiled nervously throughout the rest of his much anticipated performance. It was quite possibly the most perfect and wonderful thing I have ever seen, dancing or no dancing. Peter spied Sam on stage and was overcome with his fame, pointing and saying 'Bi Bra' (Big Brother) through the rest of the performance. There was a huge spread of treats and drinks and Sam played a couple of games, both of which he won and we ended the night with a pizza dinner out and frozen yogurt to celebrate the celebration.

I, of course, dressed them both up, because WAY TO CUTE. Enough said. This picture melts my heart into a puddle of love.